Raanta fantastic as Rangers fend off Sabres comeback to avoid back-to-back losses

Bobby Bevilacqua

derick brassard and mats zuccarello celebrate 3-8

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Yet again, the Rangers (39-22-6) answered a loss with a win taking down the Buffalo Sabres (27-32-9) by a final score of 4-2, extending their win streak to nine games against the Sabres.

The Rangers have now won 11 straight games immediately following a regulation loss, marking the longest stretch in one season in team history. The last time they lost back-to-back games was December 18 and 20.

This wasn’t the best played game of hockey for Alain Vigneault’s club. In fact, they didn’t play that well at all. The only time where the Rangers dominated play was the first six or seven minutes of the second period. Other than that, they were outplayed by the Sabres for a vast majority of the game.

But Antti Raanta stepped up and had another huge game, turning aside 34 shots, including 19 in the third period alone. It was really encouraging to see him bounce-back after a poor performance against the Islanders and come up huge for the Rangers when they needed him most. In his last four wins, he’s allowed two goals or less and has allowed just seven goals on 134 shots against.

The first period was okay for the Rangers. They didn’t blow anyone out of the water and played a somewhat casual style of hockey, but they held their own against an energized Sabres team. However, it was New York leading after one period thanks to another power play goal.

The chances were pretty even in the first few minutes, but Antti Raanta set the tone early with a few fantastic saves. His best save of the period came early in the period, making a pad save on a strong wrist shot from Foligno and then stretching out his left pad to stop Johan Larsson’s on the rebound, just getting a piece of the puck with his skate.

The Rangers got a power play chance early in the period after Zach Bogosian sent the puck over the glass. And the Blueshirts capitalized, taking an early lead on Derick Brassard’s 24th goal of the season. Evander Kane gave Mats Zuccarello some space in the neutral zone, and Zuccs made an excellent pass to spring Brassard on a breakaway chance. He made no mistake and sent a wrist shot top shelf to open the scoring and put the Rangers on top just 7:30 into the game.

The goal gave Brassard power play goals in two consecutive games, and it marked the third consecutive game with a power play goal. Keith Yandle picked up another power play assist, giving him a team high 13.

From that point on, it was mostly Antti Raanta making some more big saves, and the Rangers were held without a shot for the final 6:45 of the period. On the next Ranger power play, he made a save on Evander Kane’s shorthanded chance, as well as two other shorthanded saves.

Brady Skjei made a really nice play to sweep the loose puck out of the crease, and Keith Yandle tied up Evander Kane to prevent a rebound chance after Raanta made a nice save on a rising shot from Jack Eichel. He would finish with eight saves in the period, and Lehner made 5 stops.

The second period was split in two, meaning the Rangers dominated the first half and the Sabres controlled the second half, making it a one goal game again by the period’s end.

Mats Zuccarello scored his 22nd goal of the season less than five minutes into the period on a play that never really should have led to one. Chris Kreider and Zuccs were on an odd man rush and passing it back and forth, and it looked like Zuccarello waited too long to take a shot. But Lehner opened up and Zuccs found the five-hole, extending the Rangers lead to two goals.

And less than two minutes later, Jesper Fast scored a goal of his own to give the Rangers a three goal lead, and chase Lehner from the game after allowing three goals on 11 shots. Fast blasted a one-timer on a backhanded feed from Derick Brassard, giving him a two point game as well.

The Rangers continued to control play for a while, nearly getting a fourth goal from the fourth line, but Chad Johnson was sharp coming off of the bench.

Eventually, the play started to tilt in favor of the Sabres and they eventually broke through. The young, dynamic top line for Buffalo created the goal yet again, continuing their solid play as of late. On an odd man rush, Jack Eichel made a fantastic pass over to Sam Reinhart, and he re-directed it perfectly for the first Sabres goal of the game.

Buffalo kept the pressure on and scored 5:58 after the Reinhart goal. This time it was Johan Larsson finding the back of the net for the third time in four games. Sabres captain Brian Gionta set up Larsson for a snap shot, and he beat Raanta short side to cut the deficit to one. Larsson was left uncovered and had an open shooting lane.

The Rangers made one more late push and nearly scored as Eric Staal got three shots on goal from in front of the net. The third one popped on top of Johnson’s pads and laid in the crease, and it crossed the line but only after Oscar Lindberg pushed Johnson into the net, so there was no goal. One last save from Raanta on a wide open Nick Deslauriers ended the second period, and New York carried a 3-2 lead into the final period, also up in shots 22-17.

The third period was all Buffalo, as the Rangers went into their typical defensive shell, allowed chance after chance and allowed the Sabres to pour on the pressure. After 13 minutes, the Sabres had outshot the Rangers 14-1. They would finish with 19 shots in the period and 36 in the game. Moulson came the closest to scoring, deflecting a shot off of the post. But Raanta made 19 third period saves and JT Miller scored an empty netter to shut the door on Buffalo, giving the Rangers a nice bounce back win.

Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard both played well in this game, but it’s continuing a trend that isn’t all that good. Both have been wildly inconsistent which has been a reason why the Rangers themselves have been inconsistent at times. Last year, Rick Nash’s goals and points were spread out and always came at big moments, which was a big reason for the team’s success. Zuccarello also has a tendency to come up big against mediocre teams and not score against the bigger threats. That’ll need to change come playoff time. But granted, both players hit the 50 point plateau for the season in this game (Brassard – 24-26-50; Zuccarello – 22-29-51), and they continue to improve and increase their production.

Keith Yandle picked up another power play assist tonight, giving him a team-high 13 this season. He also has a team high in all assists (33) and is third on the team in scoring (38). He’s recorded a point in 15 of the last 22 games (3-12-15).

The Rangers have the next three days off before taking on the Red Wings in a Saturday matinee.


1) Antti Raanta – 34 SV, .944 SV%

2) Mats Zuccarello – 1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG, 16:19 TOT

3) Derick Brassard – 1 G, 1 A, +2, 15:56 TOT


Posted on March 9, 2016, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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